Guest Post: Pandemic Drug Shortages: is Compulsory Licensing the answer?
Due to the global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines and treatments are in short supply and prohibitively expensive for many countries. For this reason, some scholars and foreign governments have argued that all IP rights should be suspended for such drugs for the duration of the pandemic. Others have made the more modest recommendation that countries be permitted to use compulsory licensing under TRIPS Article 31 to produce generic versions of needed drugs, in exchange for paying “adequate remuneration in the circumstances of each case” to the patent holder. This raises the question of whether patent rights are creating an impediment to getting people needed drugs during the pandemic.
The United States has not been particularly consistent in its attitude towards non-permissive government use of patented inventions and compulsory licensing. In the 1950s and 60s, it imported patented drugs from generic manufacturers to cut costs. During the anthrax scare in the early 2000s.